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Mercury Retrograde 2023: Your Ultimate Survival Guide – STYLECASTER

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It’s no secret that astrology has rapidly risen in popularity over recent years. And if you ask me, a big reason why is Mercury retrograde, which has left its irrevocable mark on our cultural zeitgeist. Whether you’re a steadfast believer or an enchanted skeptic, you know you’ve contemplated the bewildering effects of this astro phenomenon at some point or another.
It was 2019 when the term “Mercury retrograde” went from open secret amongst cult followers of the zodiac to the hottest topic in the sky, breaking into mainstream discourse with wild abandon. Since then, it’s become a buzzword that crosses your mind whenever something goes wrong. Knowing there may be a cosmic reason you fumbled the bag or made a colossal error in judgement reminds you that you’re only human. After all, being human means you’re at often the mercy of something much larger than yourself.
Since so many of us have experienced its confounding symptoms, it’s hard not to believe that the art of astrology may be on to something. However, because the conversation surrounding Mercury retrograde has proliferated faster than the facts can catch up, there are a lot of misconceptions and negative connotations surrounding Mercury retrograde. Although its effects can certainly be frustrating and inconvenient, let’s not forget the gems you stumble upon when you suddenly find yourself tangled in this retrograde’s web. Sometimes, it’s when you’re feeling totally lost that you discover the most unexpected beauty. The truth is, a lot of positive developments can take place during Mercury retrograde. And because the internet is flooded with perspectives ridden with doom and gloom, I’m here to set the record straight and tell you everything you need to know about Mercury retrograde and how you can use this period for your own benefit.
This guide to Mercury retrograde is designed to be the only guide you’ll ever need. You can return to this guide whenever you need to plan ahead and see when Mercury retrograde takes place and how it will affect each zodiac sign (as well as the 12 houses of your birth chart, which is even more important). I’ve also included Mercury dates up from 2023 to 2030 and a fool-proof list of do’s and don’ts to help you get you through this three-week long communication crisis with as little embarrassment as possible.
Oh, and one more thing: It’s Mercury retrograde. Not Mercury in retrograde. Mic drop.
Before we get into the basics, let’s get one thing straight—Mercury is not really moving backwards in its orbit when retrograde. It only appears to do so from our vantage point here on Earth. That is why this phenomenon is technically known as “apparent retrograde motion,” as it is only an optical illusion that Mercury is reverting its course. However, those facts remain irrelevant to the practice of astrology, which is only concerned with Gaia’s perspective (otherwise known as Earth).
Mercury retrograde lasts around three weeks and takes place around three to four times per year. During this time, communication becomes less reliable, planning tends to go sideways, and linear thinking becomes less attainable, as Mercury is the planet of communication, cognitive function, travel, technical connections, and social exchanges. When stationing retrograde, Mercury slows down before coming to a full stop, then proceeds to roll backwards, retracing its steps across the zodiac and returning to degrees it recently crossed over. This can resurrect unresolved situations from our past, giving us the chance to try again or find closure. Retrogrades also have a tendency to turn a planet’s energy inward, encouraging more introversion and inner reflection during Mercury retrograde.
Mercury is the planet of communication, cognitive function, travel, technical connections, and social exchanges.
Retrogrades are never something you need to fear. Every celestial body in astrology—minus the sun and moon—will retrograde at some point, which means you’re already well-acquainted with its energy. However, there’s a reason why Mercury retrograde is the most infamous of all planetary retrogrades. Like romantic Venus and ambitious Mars, Mercury is considered one of the inner planets, which means it has a major impact on our personalities and day-to-day lives. In fact, Mercury could be considered the most influential inner planet, as it sits closest to the sun and moves faster than any other celestial body in astrology, other than the moon. Mercury retrograde feels like its upending our lives because, for three weeks, the communication we’ve come to rely on in our daily routines is disrupted to some extent.
Even though Mercury retrograde can cause communication to go haywire and technical difficulties to arise at the worst possible moment, there are definitely precautions we can take to avoid creating more problems for ourselves during this time.
Despite this sacred list of Mercury retrograde “do’s” and “don’ts”, it’s also important to remember that you should never follow these rules with total obedience and no sense of free will. Life happens, and sometimes, we’re forced to do exactly what we’re told not to do. Let’s not forget Mercury is considered the trickster planet, as it is the only other planet that can travel to the Underworld and back without being scathed. Mercury is just playing games with us while retrograde, which means we shouldn’t feel bad for playing games right back. In fact, Mercury wants us to try something different, and the experience is always more lawless than we ever intend it to be.
You should also keep in mind that it’s impossible to dodge every single surprise that’s in store, so it’s important to remember that Mercury retrograde also serves a vital purpose. By exposing errors that require correcting and bringing unfinished stories to light, Mercury retrograde often forces us to feel lost before we finally feel found. And by going with the flow of this energy and working with it rather than against it, you can harness this opportunity and turn it into a period of expedited growth.
Here’s what you should (and shouldn’t) do during Mercury retrograde:
If you were born during Mercury retrograde, that means your relationship with this confounding phenomenon becomes even more profound and meaningful. It can indicate that while growing up, you may have experienced some difficulties learning how to communicate, spread, or process information in a socially acceptable or efficient manner.
However, because you may have struggled to communicate the way you’re expected to, you inevitably became an even more interesting, independent, and intelligent thinker as an adult. If you were born during Mercury retrograde, you may have a history of saying what you weren’t supposed to say or going down a direction you were told to avoid. This can help you grow into a clever, subversive, opinionated, observant, and highly experienced individual in the long run. Make no mistake: Mercury retrograde-born folk have been around the block.
If you were born during Mercury retrograde, you may have a history of saying what you weren’t supposed to say or going down a direction you were told to avoid.
To be born during Mercury retrograde means taking your first breath during a literal “communication crisis”. This means you were dropped into the deep end and expected to learn how to swim right from the get-go. Although surprises can follow these individuals throughout their lives, they have a tendency to kick into gear and save the day just when things are at their most chaotic. That’s why those born during Mercury retrograde can be incredibly productive and prolific during this transit while the rest of us are spinning our wheels.
By no means is being born during Mercury retrograde a defect. Notable people who were born during this time include: Steve Jobs, Hillary Clinton, Angelina Jolie, George Lucas, Prince, Robert Downey Jr., Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Ben Stiller.
Everyone has their own relationship with Mercury that is defined by their birth chart, but each time Mercury retrogrades, it presents us with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. It all depends on the zodiac sign (or set of zodiac signs) in which this retrograde is taking place, as this will describe the energy and atmosphere that is currently surrounding it and influencing it. For example: Mercury retrograde in Virgo will feel very different from Mercury retrograde in Pisces.
However, Mercury retrograde has an even more specific impact on you that goes beyond the zodiac sign it takes place in. And to understand that impact, you need to look into which of the 12 astrological houses Mercury will be retrograding through. If you take a look at your birth chart, you will see 12 slices that each represent different facets of your life. Each of these slices—otherwise known as “houses”—are ruled by a zodiac sign that is dictated by your rising sign (a.k.a. your first house). In order to discover which house (or houses) Mercury will retrograde through, find the house in your birth chart that is ruled by the zodiac sign this retrograde is currently taking place in.
Based on the zodiac sign it’s moving through—as well as the astrological house it activates in your birth chart—here’s a guide for understanding how Mercury retrograde will affect you, personally:
If Mercury is retrograding through Aries or your first house of the self, you may find that your identity is evolving in a direction you’re not yet certain of. You may be forced to persist in the struggle to assert your thoughts and share your opinions, as well as the aspects of your image that you take pride in. Tense conversations may trigger your ego, but make sure you’re really in the right before you turn it into a competition or a debate. You may feel the urge to speak your truth in a way that peels back a new layer of your character, surprising you and those around you.
All in all, this retrograde is encouraging you to advocate for your ideas and learn when to trust your gut instincts. If this retrograde is moving through your first house of the self, you will also experience its symptoms on a deep and visceral level, as this backwards tailspin is creating confusion that forces you to see yourself in a brand new light. After all, the first house represents who you are, pure and distilled.
If Mercury is retrograding through Taurus or your second house of values, the world may feel as though it’s slowing down and forcing you to regroup. Taurus is a stubborn and pragmatic zodiac sign, and when Mercury is spinning backward in this fixed earth sign, you may overthink things more than usual or feel especially hesitant to make a move that feels risky. Remember that indecision is also a decision, as it slows progress and impedes the energy that wants to flow. Allow this retrograde to bring you back to your senses, grounding you in a way that gives you the confidence to move forward with patience and certainty. Sometimes, a practical solution is all it takes.
If Mercury is retrograding through your second house of possessions and self-esteem, it could force you to rethink what makes you feel stable, supported, and compensated fairly. After all, both Taurus and the second house also rule over money, shopping, and material resources, which forces you to take a closer look at the money you’re giving and receiving and the items you’re identifying with.
If Mercury is retrograding through Gemini or your third house of communication, you can expect this retrograde to lead to misunderstandings, and misinterpretations, and plenty of distractions. Mercury rules over Gemini, which helps alleviate some of the tension, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to avoid following your curiosities into dangerous territory and feeling emboldened to say something controversial. Gemini loves to exchange information and thrives on social energy, which means this retrograde will naturally force us to reconsider the way we relate to others, spread rumors, and process truths. Sometimes, telling the most interesting story possible isn’t worth the precedent it sets.
If Mercury is retrograding through your social third house, it will also shine a light on unresolved issues surrounding your close friendships, neighborly interactions, and even your relationship with siblings and cousins who have always felt like siblings. Prepare for awkward moments to run rampant and petty dramas to unfold unfeterred.
If Mercury is retrograding through Cancer or your fourth house of home and family, it’s almost guaranteed to be a strange and passive aggressive experience. When Mercury is moving through Cancer, it tends to encourage a lot of beating around the bush and indirect communication, as Mercury moves like a crab while it’s in Cancer. Crabs move sideways, remember? This avoidance is enhanced by the fact that Mercury is retrograde, which increases the already emotional energy of this water sign’s influence. This retrograde could make you feel like bottling up of emotions, but only until the cork pops from all the pressure and the truth bubbles forward.
If Mercury is retrograding through Cancer—or your fourth house of domestic affairs—it has a tendency to reveal the subconscious aspects of your home life, family dynamic, and idea of emotional security. You may even find yourself returning to your roots in some way, where you’ll reflect on traditions you’re proud to inherit and karmic cycles you’re ready to break.
If Mercury is retrograding through Leo or your fifth house of fun and pleasure, you can expect the chaos to pack on the drama and excitement. Leo always puts on a show, especially when Mercury is retrograde. However, because Leo is so prideful and the fifth house is all about your self-expression, it will encourage you to return to relationships and artistic projects that feel unfinished. You may feel more sensitive to criticism than usual, so take this time to silence your inner critic and create uninhibited; to quit judging yourself and show someone your heart. Throw something on the wall and see what sticks without judging the splatter.
Experiencing Mercury retrograding in your romantic fifth house can be an even more interesting experience, as it could resurrect unfinished love stories or bring you face-to-face with old flames. It could challenge the way you perceive the whole idea of “having fun”, as your taste in joy evolves over time.
If Mercury is retrograding through Virgo or your sixth house of work and health, it could entail all the classic Mercury retrograde symptoms typically associated with this phenomenon. Because Mercury is exalted in Virgo, this particular retrograde has the potential to bring you the most growth while forcing you through the most effort. Virgo is a highly analytical, critical, observant, detail-oriented, and data-filled zodiac sign, which makes this retrograde a threat to the way you’re used to processing information. The likelihood that plans will go awry or schedules will be double-booked increases, as Virgo is central to our routines. It could also shine a light on habits or oversights that impact your overall wellness.
Because the sixth house also has to do with your day job, this retrograde could also increase the level of frustration you experience while at work, especially if you’re sick and tired of a monotonous—or often unpredictable—office environment. You may also experience turbulences in your day-to-day rhythm, forcing you to regroup.
If Mercury is retrograding through Libra or your seventh house of partnerships, you feel an increased tendency to avoid conflict or coming on too strong. After all, Libra is the zodiac sign of balance and social graces, and the fear of not being liked or well-received increases while Mercury retrogrades in this cardinal air sign. Relationships also take on a renewed significance—or insignificance—during this time. Ex partners and associates—both romantic and otherwise—may resurface, shedding new light on issues that have transpired between you. There may be a desire to pick up where you left off, but you may also find the closure that allows you to move on.
Because Libra rules over justice and the seventh house also rules over enemies and opponents, you may find yourself crossing paths with someone who left you high and dry; someone who threatens your success. This retrograde may show you a new way to defeat them or put them in their place. Be careful, as your allies may look like enemies and your enemies may appear as allies.
If Mercury is retrograding through Scorpio or your eighth house of merging energies, this retrograde takes on a darker, more taboo hue. This retrograde will probe the most shadowy corners of your subconscious and penetrate superficial surfaces to reveal the ugly truth. However, this retrograde will also shine a light on power dynamics, as both Scorpio and the eighth house detail with areas of your life that force you to readjust your boundaries. It could point out the ways you’ve been giving in to someone else’s control or demanding too much from a situation that can’t give you what you need.
More than anything, this retrograde will highlight intimacy issues—both emotional and financial—that need addressing. After all, this retrograde will deepen your desire to be understood in a way that can’t be ignored. Because the eighth house also rules over death and rebirth, this retrograde could reawaken something you thought was over (or that you’ve been trying to end), giving you the chance to close the book on lingering chapters of your life and gain closure.
If Mercury is retrograding through Sagittarius or your ninth house of philosophies and experiences, you can expect this retrograde to really throw you for a loop. After all, Mercury is considered to be “in detriment” when it’s moving through Sagittarius, as this zodiac sign sits opposite of Gemini, Mercury’s rulership. While Mercury wants to process and delineate the facts and details, Sagittarius much prefers to focus on the big takeaway or the overall picture. Mercury gets lost in generalizations, embellishments, and oversimplifications when in Sagittarius, especially while retrograde. The level of spontaneity and unexpectedness often increases, as Sagittarius can stir hunger for strange and unorthodox adventures. You may also find yourself returning to classrooms or subjects of study, renewing your interest.
Because both Sagittarius and the ninth house also rule over travel, this retrograde experience could lead you to surprise locations in faraway places. And because Mercury retrograde always takes on a tour through the past—allowing us to tie off loose ends—this particular retrograde could bring you back to places you’ve visited long ago (or places you would never have planned to visit). There’s always something to be gleaned from these detours, so remain open to being changed.
If Mercury is retrograding through Capricorn or your 10th house of career and social hierarchy, you may experience disturbances in the public sphere that challenge the image you’re projecting for the world to see. There may be miscommunication amongst leadership or a return to professional projects that remain incomplete. You may even deal with a scandal or give out a statement that lets your followers know what you’ve been up to. However, this could also induce a lack of motivation to further your success, forcing you to redefine what success actually means to you. The legacy you leave behind is much deeper than conforming to society’s highest expectations.
Because Capricorn is a highly authoritative zodiac sign and the 10th house is the most public area of your chart, you may feel as though your mistakes and imperfections are being scrutinized more than usual. It may be time to rethink what you choose to share with the world.
If Mercury is retrograding through Aquarius or your 11th house of hopes, dreams, and worldly impact, you may crave more from your social connections than meaningless networking exchanges. In fact, this retrograde could show you the type of community you’re really searching for, as you may get reacquainted with social circles from your past or experiment in the way you choose to harness your social outreach. Because Aquarius encourages you to visualize your ideal future, this retrograde may cause you to rethink what it really is you’re hoping to contribute to the world. What do you want to be known for? What do you want to be liked or disliked for? How can you help make this world a better place for all of us?
Because the 11th house so social and community-oriented, a retrograde in this arena could lead to unexpected invitations to random events and long-overdue accolades. However, it could also alienate your fans or followers if you’re using your clout for selfish reasons.
If Mercury is retrograding through Pisces or your 12th house of dreams, unseen energy, and subconscious truths, you may feel somewhat disconnected from reality. After all, Mercury is in detriment while it’s in Pisces. You may feel more introverted than ever, as your mind may feel cloudy with confusion or vivid with resplendent reflection. There’s never been a better time for healing, and as Mercury retrograde stirs up the past, you may feel called to reopen old wounds so that you can give them the patience and necessary care to heal properly. However, because exploring your subconscious is taking up so much of your focus, you may have a tendency to let your imagination get away from you. Sensitivities will be heightened, making your thought patterns, external influences, and energetic well-being that much more worthy of your attention.
Because the 12th house is all about what happens behind the curtain, you may feel somewhat lonely during this time, as though you’re not being seen or heard. This retrograde may force you to fall back in love with yourself in your purest expression; the version of yourself that rises when no one else is watching. Because the 12th house is also the last house in the zodiac wheel, it represents endings. This type of retrograde will give you the most closure, as this retrograde is literally giving you one another chance to say goodbye and embrace forgiveness.
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